Monday, March 17, 2008

Sizing Up Potential Employers in Interviews

Randi Bussin, a career coach at Aspire! in Boston, contributed an article to this morning's Career Management Alliance e-Bridge newsletter on how to assess your fit with the culture of a potential employer. A bad match can result in an unpleasant work situation, so it's important to know what you want and how well your potential employer meets those expectations and needs.

Here's an excerpt from Randi's article, with some questions you can ask at the interview to get a better feel for the company's culture:

  • What three words or phrases would you use to describe the company/department culture? Pay attention to the adjectives that are used to see if they fit with your values.
  • Does the company have a stated set of cultural values? Often, a mission statement is a good place to start to gather insights in this area.
  • Can you describe the environment here? Pay attention to the words used and the aspects of the work environment the employer mentions, such as camaraderie, career-development opportunities, and work-life initiatives.
  • What is the company's attitude toward educational and professional development? Does the company place a value on lifelong learning and advancement?
  • What type of employee achievements are recognized by the employer? Pay attention to what the company values, and whether any special awards are given for outstanding customer service, sales, etc.
  • What type of sponsorships or philanthropic activities does the company participate in? Does the company partner with United Way, or support programs such as Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day? Do company employees volunteer for local charities?
Another great way to assess corporate culture is to pay attention to details as you walk around the office during an interview. A few ideas to consider might be

  • How were you treated during the interviews? Were people on time?
  • What key phrases did the interviewers use frequently? What does that tell you about what the company values/does not value?
  • How prepared were the interviewers? Had they seen your resume?
  • Do people look happy and appear as though they are having fun?
  • Do senior management members sit in cubes like everyone else or do they have fancy, lush offices?
  • Does the office layout promote collaboration between departments?
  • Are people eating lunch at their desk alone, or in groups in a cafeteria?

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